Some thoughts on the Renaissance by Bernard Berenson

I have been reading Bernard Berenson’s The Venetian Painters of the Renaissance (published in 1894) and I came across this piece which I found quite deep and interesting, so I thought I would share it with you.


The Renaissance had resulted in the emancipation of the individual, in making him feel that the universe had no other purpose than his happiness. This bought an entirely new answer to the question, “Why should I do this or that?” It used to be, “Because self-instituted authority commands you”. The answer now was, “Because it is good for men.” In this lies our greatest debt to the Renaissance, that it instituted the welfare of man as the end of all action. The Renaissance did not bring this idea to practical issue, but our debt to it is endless on account of the results the idea has produced in our own days. This alone would have made the Renaissance a period of peculiar interest, even if it had had no art whatever. But when ideas are fresh and strong, they are almost sure to find artistic embodiment, as indeed this whole epoch found in painting…..” (p.49)


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